Retention: How to keep teachers teaching

Written by: Colin McLean | Published:
Image: iStock

Colin McLean speaks to secondary leader Jamie Jardine about his approach to the challenge of recruitment and the retention of teachers

If the researchers are correct the numbers of teachers leaving full-time teaching, and those considering their departure, are at their highest for several years.

That makes teacher recruitment – and keeping current teachers in schools – an absolute priority for everyone, particularly school leaders.

Creating a culture that gives new and established teachers a clear career development path, lots of support and recognition and the opportunity to play a full part in the success of their school is well within the powers of heads and their senior leadership teams if they adopt the right strategies.

For Jamie Jardine, principal at The Heath School in Runcorn, Cheshire, teacher recruitment and retention is a priority area and the approaches that he and his team have adopted are worth sharing.

Create a career path

“We’re a national Teaching School and part of a School Direct teacher training consortium. This means that we can give our trainee and new teachers a lot of support and, as importantly, a strong sense of where their career could take them. We are able to map out a career path right the way through the early stages of teaching to middle leadership and beyond.

“This gives people more of a chance to develop their skills, not just in our schools but in those that we work with. We make sure that new teachers have a strategic plan for their career development that sets out the opportunities available to them. For a lot of teachers who consider leaving the profession the main reason as I see it is that they aren’t getting the opportunities they want to develop their careers in the direction they want. I want our staff to be able to fulfil their career ambitions like I was able to fulfil mine. I started here as an NQT in 2001 and became principal in 2013.”

Support networks

“Build support networks inside and outside the school. New and established teachers need opportunities to work with other colleagues within and outside the school. They can learn from them and share ideas with them as well. We use local and regional networks of schools to do this.

“Internally we offer people secondments. As part of teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) posts, we have given classroom teachers the chance to lead school initiatives. For example, we have someone analysing and having a positive impact upon the attendance of Pupil Premium pupils and someone who worked with me on our successful application for Investors in People gold accreditation. We also run secondments to our leadership team. We currently have two in the senior leadership team learning their role from more experienced colleagues.”

Give them a chance to lead

“We use our INSET days for our learning communities. Our current TLR holders have the chance to lead those groups, which look at a specific aspect of our teaching practice and trial new approaches and then make recommendations. They’ve looked at the use of social media in school, the use of learning apps, within school variation and the workings of the school’s pastoral system.”

Nurture your NQTs

“If our NQTs haven’t trained with us we still make sure that they have a very thorough induction process. They will be paired with someone in their curricular area. A member of our senior leadership team has this area as her primary focus. We want to know if there are any issues, such as communications problems with parents, that may put pressure on our NQTs. We can then make sure that they have guidance and support from their mentors on those areas.

“Really clear lines of accountability are essential I think. A good performance management system is part and parcel of this. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and what support they can expect from the school. We are clear about expectations. If you want the best then you must tell your staff what it is you expect so that no-one left out on a limb and there are no shocks six months down the line.”

Listen, don’t judge

“Each year as part of the performance management process we do an ‘aspirations survey’ to find out the career ambitions of our staff so that we can then try to make sure that the development is there that will help them realise their aims. Also, as part of our whole-school self-evaluation form we have learning conversations twice a year. Teachers meet with heads of departments to talk about current issues away from the performance management process – for example they may have issues with a certain year group.”

Celebrate success

“We have a reward and incentive group. Every term staff nominate a colleague who has gone above and beyond the call of duty. The prize might be something as simple as a car valeting voucher or a bookshop voucher. We also run a staff wellbeing week every half-term when we expect staff to go home by 3:30pm or 4pm to see their families.”

  • Colin McLean is chief executive of Best Practice Network, a national provider of training and professional development. Visit More advice can be found in a guide to assembling the best senior leadership team published by Best Practice Network at


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